Precursor Lesions of Skin Cancer

  • Majoriê Mergen SegattoEmail author
  • Eloísa Unfer Schmitt Botton


Skin cancer is more common than any other type of cancer. In view of the impact of skin cancer on public health, this chapter is dedicated to recognizing and treating precursor lesions of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer. We divide the precursor lesions into three main groups. In the cutaneous melanoma precursor lesions group we discuss congenital melanocytic nevus, dysplastic nevus, and acquired melanocytic nevus. In the basocellular carcinoma precursor lesions group we discuss nevus sebaceus, and in the spinocellular carcinoma precursor lesions group we discuss actinic keratosis, porokeratosis, cutaneous horn, chronic scars, oral leukoplakia and erythroplakia, oral lichen planus, lichen sclerosus, and precursor lesions of skin cancer related to human papillomavirus.


Acquired melanocytic nevus Actinic keratoses Atypical nevus Basocellular carcinoma Burn scars Common nevi Congenital melanocytic nevus Cutaneous horn Cutaneous melanoma Chronic scars Dysplastic nevus Giant congenital melanocytic nevus Erythroplakia Lichen sclerosus Lichen sclerosus et atrophicus Marjolin’s ulcer Melanocytic nevus Nevus sebaceus Nevus sebaceus of Jadassohn Nonmelanoma skin cancer Nevus Scars Skin cancer Oral lichen planus Oral leukoplakia Porokeratosis Premalignant lesions Precursor lesions Spinocellular carcinoma Squamous cell carcinoma 



Actinic keratoses

Epidermal lesions at the initial clinical stage of a biological continuum that may culminate in spinocellular carcinoma. They generally result from prolonged exposure to nonionizing radiation, especially ultraviolet. It has been characterized as a premalignant or precursor lesion of skin cancer, because it presents atypical keratinocytes confined in the epidermis.

Congenital melanocytic nevus

Melanocytic nevus that is present at birth or rarely up to 2 years of age. It is believed to result from the rapid proliferation of melanocytic lineage cells due to some morphologic error of the neuroectoderm, during the migration of the melanoblasts from the neural crest to the skin.

Cutaneous horn

A clinical term for a firm, white to yellow, conical, keratotic papule or plaque ranging from a few millimeters to several centimeters in size. Spinocellular carcinoma is the most common neoplasia associated with malignant-based horn.

Dysplastic nevus

Described as a continuum between the common acquired nevus and the melanoma, since it is morphologically and biologically the intermediate between these two entities.


A fiery red patch that cannot be characterized clinically or pathologically as any other definable disease. It is classified as an oral potentially malignant disorder.

Giant congenital melanocytic nevus

Congenital melanocytic nevus of ≥20 cm that generally presents as a brownish lesion with defined margins and hypertrichosis. The association with melanoma is well established.

Human papillomaviruses

Consist of a heterogeneous group of nonenveloped, double-stranded DNA viruses that display a distinct tropism for mucosal or cutaneous squamous epithelia. They are associated with development of malignancies, particularly high-risk HPV types.

Lichen sclerosus

An autoimmune, inflammatory dermatosis, characterized by a lymphocytic response that has a predilection for the genital skin in both sexes, and an association with several other autoimmune diseases.

Marjolin’s ulcer

This term refers to carcinomas arising both from chronically inflamed and scarred skin.

Nevus sebaceus

A hamartoma of epithelial and nonepithelial origin that is often referred to as an organoid nevus because it may contain any or all components of the skin.

Oral leukoplakia

A white plaque of questionable risk having excluded (other) known diseases or disorders that carry no risk. It is classified as an oral potentially malignant disorder.


A group of cutaneous entities characterized by disordering of epidermal keratinization, presence of a cornoid lamella, and a predisposition to develop malignant transformation.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Majoriê Mergen Segatto
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eloísa Unfer Schmitt Botton
    • 2
  1. 1.Private PracticePorto AlegreBrazil
  2. 2.Private PracticePorto AlegreBrazil

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